Bolivian alternative climate conference begins

Bolivian president Evo Morales is one of the leaders attending the conference that aims to do what they feel Copenhagen should have done. Copyright: Prensa Cumbre Climática

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The World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth began today, attracting more than 15,000 participants who hope it will prove to be an alternative to the "failed" negotiations in Copenhagen last year.

The conference — which aims to bring together governments, social movements and non-governmental organisations — will analyse the structural causes of climate change and propose actions for addressing them.

It also aims to generate a "big world alliance of social and people's movements to push the governments of the developed countries to effectively reduce greenhouse gases", Pablo Solón, the Bolivian ambassador to the UN, told SciDev.Net.

Last December the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, held in Copenhagen, brought most nations of the world together to hammer out an agreement on climate change mitigation (see Copenhagen shows the shape of things to come). But Bolivia, as well as Costa Rica, Cuba, Nicaragua, the Tuvalu Islands and Venezuela rejected the final declaration — the Copenhagen Climate Accord.

They argued that the Accord was a superficial agreement made without the consensus of the developing countries. No reduction goals were formally agreed at the time and there was a feeling on behalf of these countries that major countries such as China and the United States were too resistant to setting tough and legally-binding emissions reductions.

The Bolivian president, Evo Morales, therefore called for an alternative conference to try to find solutions and joint strategies for the future.

"The social movements of the developed countries concur that there has to be a significant reduction [in green house gas emissions]," said Solón.

Among the proposals that will be discussed in Cochabamba are the creation of a Climate Justice Tribunal to monitor compliance to climate change agreements and arbitrate the ecological debt, a World Referendum on Climate Change to bypass governments' inability to reach an agreement on emission reductions, and the Universal Declaration for the rights of the Mother Earth to promote sustainable development.

The conference will hear around 200 speakers, including Miguel D'Escoto — the former president of the UN General Assembly — and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel. Several developing countries presidents have said they would attend.

"The opposite of what occurred in Copenhagen, where the industries had the control of information, could happen here. In Cochabamba, it's possible to reach a more positive communication with the people", said the environmental activist and Hollywood actress, Q'orianca Kilcher. "It's time for all the indigenous leaders' voices to be heard around the world", she added.

The final declaration of this conference will be presented at the UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico, in November 2010.

"Society's pressure is fundamental in order for democratic governments to change their policies," the presidential spokesman of the Bolivian government, Iván Canelas, told SciDev.Net.